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Facebook Strategy: Easier to Ask for Users’ Forgiveness vs. Permission

Aaron Task
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After a few weeks of positive news, and a stealth recovery in its stock, Facebook (FB) has brought some unwarranted attention to itself again.

Over the weekend, the company launched a test of a feature called 'Find Friends Nearby', which allows Facebook users to locate friends using the GPS on their mobile phones. The feature prompted a backlash over concerns about privacy and stalking, and Facebook quickly took it down.

In various reports, Facebook portrayed 'Find Friends Nearby' as something being tested by a few engineers, not a formal product release. (Boys will be boys, right?)

Harder to dismiss as a mistake or a random test by some rogue elements was Facebook's decision to change every users' profile to make a facebook.com domain their primary email address.

From the outside, it appears Facebook was unhappy with the uptake of its Titan messaging system -- which supposedly can aggregate all your emails, texts and instant messages into one stream -- and decided to force it on its 900 million users.

As with Timeline and other features, Facebook seems to be following a pattern of giving users an opportunity to opt into a new feature, then force it on everybody, regardless of whether they want it or not.

"The problem, as most of us know, is if you haven't opted into the new feature, service, or change, it blindsides you when it arrives," writes Jill Duffy at PCMag.com. "You haven't had time to read up on what it means or how it will change your Facebook account. You don't know what's private and what's exposed."

In other words, Facebook's attitude with its users seems to be: It's easier to ask for forgiveness vs. permission.

In the accompanying video, Henry and I discuss this corporate 'strategy' as well as other Facebook-related news, including:

  • Sheryl Sandberg being named to Facebook's board of directors.
  • The end of the "quiet period" for analysts who work for the underwriters of Facebook's IPO to launch coverage of the stock. Unless the new 'Chinese Wall' between research and banking on Wall Street was built really high, the IPO price of $38 is likely to be the floor for most new price targets when a torrent of new sell-side research is released Wednesday.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com.

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